'I think of Tovino Thomas as my son'
... says cinematographer-turned-director BR Vijayalakshmi, who is upbeat about Abhiyum Anuvum that is coming out next month
Asia’s first woman cinematographer, BR Vijayalakshmi, who is also currently the senior vice-president of Saregama (music label, film studio and multi-language television content production house), returns to direction with the Malayalam-Tamil bilingual Abhiyude Katha Anuvinteyum aka Abhiyum Anuvum, starring Tovino Thomas and Pia Bajpiee in the lead.
“After directing SP Balasubrahmanyam in Paattu Padava (1995), I got busy with television, and have so far produced 8,000 hours of content for the small screen,” beams Vijayalakshmi, who has been in the industry for almost 40 years.
Abhiyum Anuvum is based on a true incident, she reveals. “Tovino plays a software engineer, who falls in love with an organic farmer in Ooty. Eventually, they get married. What happens when the validity of their marriage comes into question is what the film is about.”
Vijayalakshmi has been wanting to make this film for some time now. “Yoodlee Films (the newly launched production wing of Saregama) were looking to make stories with no compromises in the quality of filmmaking. We wanted to pick a true story that had made a difference in people’s lives. When I told Vikram Mehra, our managing director, about my idea, he was quite pleased and helped me execute it,” she says.
For Paattu Padava, she handled camera duties too, but for Abhiyum Anuvum, she hasn’t. “I realised it would be better if I focussed only on filmmaking. I made up my mind about this when I was writing the script. Our DoP (Akilan) has captured some wonderful frames, and has done a fabulous job,” she smiles.
Why Tovino and Pia? “My story needed someone without image issues. I immediately thought about Tovino; I am really impressed with the films he does. In particular, Guppy. I think of him as my son. As for Pia, I hope that this film will bring her much-needed recognition,” she says.
She goes to explain why she conceived this project as a Malayalam-Tamil bilingual. “I am married to a Malayali, Sunil Shree Nair (the editor of this film). So it was a natural choice. And hey, Tovino is from Kerala, too,” she laughs.
The film also has veteran actors like Prabhu, Suhasini, and Rohini. “I’ve known them all for a long time and wanted them to be a part of the film. Rohini has been in the industry for many decades, and in the press meet, she said she hasn’t done a role like this ever!”
Despite making a debut in the 90s, why did Vijayalakshmi not go on to make more films? “That’s purely because of circumstances. I have never been away from the medium. When I started out, everything seemed new, but now, I can see that the process of filmmaking has changed,” she says.
Vijayalakshmi doesn’t agree that there are not too many women directors in the industry. “Things have changed. Let’s not keep saying the same old thing. Lakshmi Ramakrishnan, Soundarya Rajinikanth, Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi, Aishwarya Dhanush, V Priya, Sudha... These women direct commercial films, and haven’t restricted themselves to art cinema,” she elaborates.
She doesn’t have any pending scripts, but is sure that she wants to direct Vijay Sethupathi in the future. “I don’t plan, but the journey has turned out to be happy,” she signs off.